Taste is in our heads: how our senses fool at the table

Grilled octopus tastes a hundred times better on a terrace on the Mediterranean Sea than at the Greek restaurant around the corner. There is the salty zeegeur, the blue painted chairs and the murmuring surf. Food we do with all of our senses, sets gastrofysicus Charles Spence.

© Naomi Kolsteren

Imagine that you are sitting in a restaurant. At the time that the fish is served, will there be waves on the table and in the sound of the roar of the sea. It is also something fresher in the barroom, as if a light breeze between the participants plays. Around you seem immersed in the blue water, the sunlight catches in thousands of bright dots. Who a place online at the Spanish top chef Paco Roncero, should this scenario come to expect. The are but video projections, a soundtrack and the air conditioning, but the effect seems startling.

Something of the same effect does Heston Blumenthal in The Fat Duck in the Uk, the Bray. There you’ll get at the dish, Sounds of the Sea a mp3 player to the ears with a custom soundscape. And in the Subparagraph in Chicago let chef Grant Achatz ‘s pheasant serving while oak leaves are lit – purely for the scent and the atmosphere. This up-to-date chefs making their dishes a sensory spectacle. That provides the customers with a memorable night on the town, which subsequently fun storytellen. But the special thing is the claim of the cooks that such an atmosphere the taste itself is changing; the press would be more intense to come in. The fish taste more to the ocean, the delicate textures of the fowl reveal more nuances.


A dish tastes better if we with heavy cutlery to eat with plastic or aluminium knives and forks

Round chocolate

They refer to the gastrofysica, the branch of science confirms that studies how we taste. Never is only the tongue of tel. Smell plays come as well, just as sound, colour, form and touch. The name that quickly falls is Charles Spence. He is a professor at the university of Oxford and carry out all sorts of experiments with food and drink. In order to give you a sense: subjects (never was the word so in its place) judged in a court as sweeter as in their headphones, a tune that sounded high, tingelende show (Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield). Krek same court scored higher on ‘bitter’ in the test group that a resolute melody got to hear, with low notes and blaring buyers (think: Wagner). A dish tastes better if we with heavy cutlery to eat with plastic or aluminium knives and forks, chocolate bars with rounded corners tastes sweeter than angular, and coffee is less tasty with a shrieking, great coffee machine in the background. In one of Spences experiments was the same aardbeienmousse on a white and on a black plate served. On the white board was 15 % better found. The sense of touch is also a coin in the bag. Eating from a bowl in the hand leads faster to a feeling of satiation. That would be because you feel the roads and the heat of it tangible records, what satisfaction promotes. In addition, inhale the aromas, because your nose is closer above the voedseloppervlak.

Breast milk

Chocolatier Dominique Persoone and Bernard Lahousse, an expert in food pairing, belong to the Belgian network of Charles Spence. They know him personally and share the same belief: that what you taste not only the taste buds is determined, but by all your senses. Dominique Persoone: “We know each other from the denkgroep that Heston Blumenthal every year calls for ideas about gastronomy to exchange. Afterwards, we were at an event in France, where he and I presented the gifts. He is about his science, I about my work with chocolate and smell. It coincided nicely with each other. I presented, among other things, a pralinedoosje that inside smoke to the mother’s breast. You can you imagine, a sweet aroma with a tinge of vanilla. The chocolate itself had the shape of a breast, and if you were caught, there was milk from the nipple. Another box discharging to grass, and contained a praline full of sap of newly mown lawn.’

© belga

Your ear and eat with them

It is not everyone will be awarded in the chocolate moederborsten of Persoone to bite, let alone to go winen and dinen in fancy restaurants in Spain or Chicago. The question is: what does the gastrofysica to the stove at home and to the everyday life? Persoone: ‘They can make you more ideas. That does not need to be complicated. At a christmas dinner, would you, for example, the dessert can serve with on the bottom of each plate a drop of pine trees. Your guests will be eating differently. Because so much is done unconsciously, underestimate it.’

If you are anything up to 15% sweeter if you mean high-profile, tingelende tones are heard, then it may help to let us get used to less sweetener in our food, puts Spence in an interview with a Science Focus. Still, a solid, healthy bonus.

Perhaps the gastrofysica a lot more penetrated than we suspect. Now take the biscuits from Bahlsen. ‘Knak’ says so’n biscuit. In the headquarters in Hanover to work up to sixty researchers that sound. It should not be too dull, just knisperig enough, so that the consumer successfully recognize. It is equally as important as the logo or the brand name. ‘That verschlüsselte Botschaft für den Verbraucher’, called in company records. Bahlsen is a legendary fanatic. There are tasting panels, microphones and kauwklankopnames. Through the many years of experience, the company in the meantime, about all know-how relating to ingredients, blend, knead and baktechnieken to the recipe to tweak the sound is always correct.

Chips must be on

‘Products differ in their drivers, or liking, or the characteristics the consumer the most weight to it,” say Hilde Vanaerden and Evelien Goossens VG Sensory. Their company, based in Deinze and Gembloux, test in command of companies to the taste, smell, texture and appearance of foods. This is done by a cohort of subjects in white cabins bowls dished up under kleurneutraliserend light. It may be chocolate, French fries, vegetables, whiskey … you name it, and all of these products therefore differ in their drivers of liking. Evelien Goossens: ‘The drivers of liking are a multisensorieel given. So, it could be anything. For chips, for example, krokantheid and salinity.’ Hilde Vanaerden: Even though ‘smells a certain kind of chips not so good, the overall judgement is still very positive, because the smell in this case is not a strong driver.”

Charles Spence goes even further in his analysis. Noisier chips taste better, he discovered. According to him, is the packaging of the chips also with the intent of noisy, scraping material, as the anticipation of the imminent cracking of the chips between the teeth. The bag from the kitchen cabinet, is the beginning of a sound loop: the crackling of the hand in the bag, and the grinding of the chips in the mouth. We all know how that ends. Chips food is all chips to eat. That. Bag. Must. Empty.


A bag of chips from the kitchen cabinet, is the beginning of a sound loop: the crackling of the hand in the bag, and the grinding of the chips in the mouth

Spirit or matter

How proves gastrofysica its right to exist? In the food and beverage industry? “The business helps indeed to our bills to pay’, says Charles Spence. “It is nice to be with chefs to work, but they seldom pay for research. Ultimately, it is the large firms that, by their scale, can make a difference. This being said: my experiences teach me that it is the talented chefs that scientific findings creatively and quickly convert it into something tasty and like climbing the mont ventoux on the menu. In companies there are often many layers of management and conflicting policies in the road. Therefore, I think that both parties are important to provide insights from the gastrofysica in practice.’

Finally, a philosophical question in its place. Scent, color, shape, sound and views – they can change our taste experience is real, or think we are alone but that the flavor changes? A centuries-old controversy from the philosophy is here again comes. Either gives the spirit the things of form (read: taste is the result of breinprocessen), or have the things what they are, and the rest is illusion or manipulation, if you want to.

What to find Charles Spence? ‘Color, sound, visual composition, they can really a difference in taste ensure. On scans shows that the brain activity can actually change in the primary areas of the sample to encode. Not that you water into wine can change, but such incentives can focus your attention on certain aspects of the dining experience that focus on, and therefore more intense and memorabeler. Is the taste in the food or in the spirit? I’m leaning towards the second choice.’

CHARLES SPENCE, Gastrophysics.

The new science of eating, Penguin, 2017, 430 p. The Dutch translation appears at Publishing house Prometheus.

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